Monday, October 3, 2011

How green is Douglas College? Part 2: The cafeteria

By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

During your lunchtime forays to the College’s cafeteria or deli, you may have noticed the absence of an evil white substance that lurks in many fast food restaurants – not to mention in the boxes that your BlackBerry, iPad etc. came in. That’s right. We’re talking about polystyrene, aka Styrofoam.

About three years ago the College decided to do away with polystyrene and switch to a take-out container that doesn’t take 100 years to break down in the landfill. The cafeteria’s clam shell containers – generally used for hot foods – are now made of sugar cane paper, which is made from “bagasse,” a by-product of cane sugar. Bagasse is both a renewable resource and is compostable to boot.

“It would seem to be small area, but it was a huge undertaking because of the cost implications and finding a product that would keep food either hot or cold, says Fernanda Santos, Manager of Facilities Services at Douglas. “But we have now gotten rid of all Styrofoam products, and that’s a big thing.”

Most of the cafeteria and deli’s new plastic food containers are now BPI (Biodegradable Plastics Institute) certified. This means they’re made with recycled plastic and are compostable. The soup cups and coffee cups as are also made from a renewable, compostable material.

“The new soup and coffee cups are more expensive,” Fernanda points out. “There was a cost to moving away from traditional containers and cups, but it’s been absorbed by the College.”

Even the oil from the cafeteria’s deep fryers is picked up by a recycler.

At present there is no collection area at the College for compostable products (including food), but it’s not out of the question that one day you’ll be able to compost your leftover salad right on campus.

“We don’t have a lot of space, but I do have that as one of my items to look into,” says Fernanda. “I think there’s a great opportunity to do more – we just have to find a way of putting that together. That’s a big item.”

Green tips

  • Recycling is important, but don’t forget to try and reduce the amount of waste you produce. Plan meals carefully so you don’t end up with a fridge full of food that doesn’t get eaten. Don’t go grocery shopping on a empty stomach. 
  • Replace disposable products with reusable ones (e.g., razors, batteries, shopping bags, mugs, etc.)
  • If you have a yard, make or buy a backyard composter to compost your fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, tea bags and coffee grounds. 
  • If you live in an apartment, consider getting a worm composter. Or ask your local community garden if you can put your kitchen scraps in their compost bin. 
  • Bring your own reusable containers to restaurants for take-out.  
  • When shopping, choose products that come in glass or aluminum containers, as both materials are infinitely recyclable. For plastics, keep in mind that Metro Vancouver recycles nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 only.  
For more information on what you can and can’t recycle, plus organizations that will take things the Blue Box doesn’t, visit your municipality’s website.


See our post last week on the College's green roof.